Illinois State leaves the Rams seeing red after another lopsided loss

Eddie Herz

The Colorado State University Rams may have been wearing their unique orange jerseys for Ag Day against Illinois State University, but the same dysfunctional CSU team took the field once again.

Illinois State defeated the Rams 35-19 as CSU fell to 1-4 on the season.

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The Redbirds may be affiliated with the Football Championship Subdivision, but they made the Rams look like the inferior program on Saturday afternoon as ISU accumulated 538 total yards while CSU only mustered 391.

“It was an embarrassment for our football team,” Coach Mike Bobo said. “We are not very good right now. That’s the bottom line….we have to coach better and all that starts with me as the head coach.”

The Rams drew first blood in the opening quarter when a nine-yard connection between redshirt senior quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels and senior wide receiver Olabisi Johnson resulted in six points. The touchdown capped a productive 14-play, 80-yard drive.

From then on, CSU struggled to produce anything positive until the second half.

The Rams went three-and-out in each of their final three drives to close out the first half. CSU accrued only 97 total yards during the opening 30 minutes. 

“We just have to get consistency out of 11 guys,” senior running back Izzy Matthews said. “Ten guys can do something perfect, but it’s that one guy that’s not and that’s really what puts you in the can…it’s tough to keep any flow going.”

men play football
(Matt Begeman | Collegian)

During the Rams’ first half of offensive dumbfoundedness, the Redbirds moved the ball exceptionally well.

Junior running back James Robinson, who entered the game averaging 8.2 yards per carry, put ISU on the board from two yards out following a missed coverage on the play prior for the team’s first score. Robinson finished the game with 183 yards on 21 carries (8.7 per carry) and two touchdowns.

Robinson’s backfield mate, junior Markel Smith, exploited CSU’s defense as well. Smith punched it in from one yard away to give the Redbirds a 14-6 lead with only two seconds remaining in the first half.

Considering ISU received the second half kickoff, a key situation arose for the Rams’ defense. Instead of coming out motivated, the unit continued to look flat.

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The Redbirds put together a five play, 75-yard drive that took only 2:25 off the clock to begin the second half. The drive was capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass from junior Brady Davis to senior Tylor Petkovich. Davis, a Memphis transfer, ended the game with 217 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Frustration was evident at that point for CSU. On the same play, senior safety Jordan Fogal was disqualified from the game for targeting Petkovich after delivering a hit to the receiver’s head.

A slight shift in momentum occurred thereafter. As fans have seen time and time again this season, the Rams’ offense seemed to finally wake up in the third quarter.

After throwing an interception on a deep ball, intended for Johnson on the possession before, Carta-Samuels responded and threw a 17-yard touchdown to freshman Nikko Hall on the next drive. The touchdown was the first of Hall’s collegiate career.

Following the score, CSU was only down 21-13. But, Illinois State did not back down.

The Rams’ defense forced two three-and-outs immediately after the score, but the Rams could not take advantage. Following the lack of success, redshirt sophomore Collin Hill was behind center for CSU during the ensuing four drives.

“It’s out of my control (getting taken out),” Carta-Samuels said. “Yeah, it’s tough. But, I’m just going to play how I can play and do what I can do.”

Hill completed nine of 17 passes for 115 yards while throwing both a touchdown and an interception. Carta-Samuels threw two touchdowns and one interception and totaled 142 passing yards. 

Illinois State put the game out of reach with a little under 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Redbirds were facing third and 19 from their own 40-yard line still leading by eight. A stop for the Rams’ defense would have resulted in a third consecutive three-and-out.

Davis threw a screen pass to Smith with senior safety Jamal Hicks being the only defender in the area. The safety was quick to the ball and had a chance to wrap Smith up for a short gain. Instead, Hicks missed the tackle and Smith scampered down the sidelines for a 60-yard score.

The loss to an FCS opponent will sting for CSU.

The defeat marks the first time the Rams have lost to an FCS team since losing 22-7 to North Dakota State in 2012. Also, CSU was 8-0 on Ag Day in its popular orange uniforms, before Saturday’s loss.

“We have to go back to square one and find out identity,” Bobo said. “We do not have an identity as a football team. We’ve had one the last three years, an identity of what we are. We don’t have it as a football team right now”

The Rams will be back in action after a bye week Oct. 6 to face the San Jose State Spartans on the road.

Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.